Key moments leading up to this year's Oscars

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Mo'Nique and Lee Daniels
 
Jan. 16
"Precious" premieres at Sundance and is acquired by Lionsgate after Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry pledge their support. The Weinstein Co. sues, claiming it bought the film first. (Weinstein's case is later thrown out.)

Jan. 18
Unknown Carey Mulligan becomes a best actress contender after "An Education" premieres to applause at Sundance and is acquired by Sony Pictures Classics.

Feb. 22

81st Annual Academy Awards.

May 13, 20
"Up" and "Inglourious Basterds"
premiere at the Festival de Cannes to positive but not overwhelming reviews.

June 24
The Academy shocks the awards community by announcing an expansion of the best picture category to 10 nominee

June 26
"The Hurt Locker" earns $145,000 in opening-weekend boxoffice from four theaters in North America.


Comic-Con
 
July 23

Fox debuts the first 25 minutes of "Avatar" to a warm but not overly enthusiastic crowd at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Aug. 14

Sony's yearlong viral marketing campaign pays off when "District 9" opens to more than $37 million domestically.

Aug. 18
Tom Sherak is elected Academy president, replacing Sid Ganis.

Aug. 21
After several tweaks following its Cannes premiere, "Inglourious Basterds" opens to rave reviews and a stellar $38 million on its way to more than $300 million in worldwide boxoffice.

Aug. 21
Paramount bumps the release of "Shutter Island" to February, out of awards consideration.

Sept. 2

The long-delayed "The Road" finally screens for critics, who aren't kind to the bleak drama. It drops off the best picture radar.

Sept. 5
"Up in the Air" premieres at the Telluride Film Festival and becomes the toast of Toronto a week later. Many prognosticators declare it the film to beat.


"Crazy Heart"
 
Sept. 12
Focus Features gives out purple yarmulkes at the premiere party for "A Serious Man" in Toronto, beginning a quirky marketing campaign.

Oct. 20
Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman are named Oscar producers, promising to shake things up. Three weeks later, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin are named hosts.

Oct. 23

"Amelia" crashes and burns with critics and audiences. Its Oscar hopes fly away.

Nov. 4

Fox Searchlight screens a rough cut of "Crazy Heart" for a handful of journalists. The warm reaction to Jeff Bridges' performance prompts the studio to rush the film into theaters for awards consideration.

Nov. 6
Buoyed by relentless promotion from Oprah Winfrey, "Precious" scores an unheard-of $100,000 per-screen average in its first weekend in limited release.

Nov. 14
Academy Governors' Awards presented for the first time.

"Up in the Air"
 

Nov. 20

"The Blind Side" opens to a surprising $34 million, against the second film in the "Twilight" series, "New Moon." Sandra Bullock receives warm reviews but the film is largely dismissed as a non-contender.

Dec. 4

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. is the first awards body to see a finished cut of "Avatar." The screening ends in applause.

Dec. 11
"The Lovely Bones" opens to negative reviews, burying its best picture hopes.

Dec. 15
"Up in the Air" scores the most Golden Globes nominations, cementing its front-runner status.

Dec. 19

A snowstorm on the East Coast tempers opening-weekend boxoffice for "Avatar," with $77 million. Pundits wonder whether Fox will make back its investment in the film.

Jan. 12

"The Hurt Locker" is released on DVD much later than many thought wise.

Jan. 17
"Avatar" wins the Golden Globe for best drama and seems headed for an Oscar.


Christoph Waltz and Diane Kruger
 

Jan. 23

SAG sows confusion by giving its top prize to "Inglourious Basterds."

Jan. 24

"The Hurt Locker" scores an upset victory over "Avatar" at the Producers Guild of America Awards. A week later, "Locker" triumphs at the DGA.

Feb. 2

Oscar nominations are announced.

Feb. 20

Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards presented.

More awards coverage  
March 2
Final ballots due.

March 7

82nd Annual Academy Awards.
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